Swim Or Die: Syrian Refugee Swims From Turkey To Greece… And Now Wins At The Olympics

Yusra Mardini was born in 1998. Last year, the 18-year old fled from her home country Syria to save her life.

Now she is part of the Refugee Olympic team (ROT) to compete at Rio.

Under ROT, Mardini will compete in the 100-meter freestyle and the 100-meter butterfly at the 2016 Rio Olympics.

The humanitarian and incredible swimmer displayed her skills under the Olympic flag at the Aquatics Stadium in Rio; hence, winning the 100m butterfly heat against 4 other swimmers with a record time of 1:09.21.

See Also: Rio 2016 Will Feature The First Ever Refugee Olympic Team


With the endless war and conflict in Syria, the athlete decided it was time to leave her country. She now resides in Berlin, Germany with her sister Sarah and their parents.

As a desperate measure, Yusra Mardini along side other desperate Syrians sailed on an overcrowded vessel to Europe. As usual the boat contained about 20 persons instead of 6 persons which the boat was ideally supposed to carry.

To save the lives of everyone, Yusra, Sarah and 2 others who could swim literally carried the boat from Turkey to Greece. For 3 whole hours and more, the swimmers pushed the boat to safety.

“We were the only four who knew how to swim. I had one hand with the rope attached to the boat as I moved my two legs and one arm. It was three and half hours in cold water. Your body is almost like … done. I don’t know if I can describe that.”

Arriving Germany and definitely thinking about giving up her dream as an athlete, Yusra started training with a swimming club, Wasserfreunde Spandau 04 in Berlin.

Before the Syrian wars and conflicts the young lady had represented her country in international competitions. For instance she represented Syria at the 2012 FINA World Swimming Championships (25 m) 200 metre individual medley, 200 metre freestyle and 400 metre freestyle events.

Yusra says she works hard to develop herself as a professional athlete. She trains extra hard to nail it at the Olympic competitions.

“She’s really good. She’s really mentally good. She is in her high performance level for the race.”– Sven Spannekrebs, Yusra’s Coach

See Also: Meet Botswana’s First Olympic Swimmer – Naomi Ruele


Yusra Mardini appears to be one of the most watched athletes for the Rio Olympics. First, she saves lives by swimming and secondly, she obviously has the talent.

Beyond monetary philanthropy, Yura’s courage and willingness to save the lives of co-refugees is perhaps the richest form of giving back.

“It was awful in the beginning but we thought it would be a shame if we didn’t help the people who were onboard with us.”- Yusra Mardini.